Something New Movie Review

More than 30 years ago, close-minded sitcom character George Jefferson dogged neighbors Helen and Tom Willis for partaking in an interracial relationship. The pint-sized loudmouth dubbed the duo a "zebra," and audiences howled with laughter because the notion of a mixed-race couple was relatively unfamiliar. By the time the television show went off the air in 1985, the joke had run its course.

So why is scripter Kriss Turner, a veteran of generic sitcom writing, attempting to blow the dust off the concept for newfound laughs? Turner's treatment for Sanaa Hamri's Something New pits races against each other to tell the often-turbulent courtship of Kenya (Sanaa Lathan), a black accountant, and Brian (Simon Baker), her white landscape architect. Color colors everything for this duo as they try to make a relationship work, and New overplays the racial chip on its shoulder to the detriment of the romantic date movie that's buried at its core.

Hamri, making her directorial debut, shows initial promise by tweaking the romantic-comedy formula in the film's opening minutes. A funny fantasy sequence opens New, and the soundtrack twists to fit the film's pessimistic mood. We meet four single friends who've adopted the slogan "Let go, let flow" as they search for the I.B.M. (ideal black man). Three of the ladies fall by the wayside, though, as New follows closed-off, stuck-up ice queen Kenya. She resists when meeting Brian, a man hot enough to melt her barriers, because he's white. Their first date, a blind meeting in a Starbucks, is one of many broadly drawn interactions where Kenya overreacts simply because she's being seen in public with a white man. In today's day and age, one would think whites and blacks could share the same table in a crowded coffee shop without raising eyebrows.

When you have no one, the need to find someone can consume, and New advances the relationship because Kenya can't stand to be alone anymore. So Brian doesn't fit her preconceived notions. As the title suggests, we're trying something new, and the actors slowly foster credible chemistry. Lathan and Baker find a spark that warms their connection every time Turner and Hamri leave them out in the cold.

New merely suffers from the same old continuity gaffs and blatant hurdles that accompany bad writing. This marks Turner's first stab at feature-film writing, but she holds on to the episodic contrivances that plague today's lamest sitcoms. Lathan trudges through an awkward drunk scene, where her character speaks her mind with alcohol's assistance. There are repeated fights between the lovebirds in public places, a trick that puts both of them in the minority to emphasize the pressures they face.

Good directors can overcome clichéd writing, but Hamri plays to the level of her screenplay. She casts capable performers in roles too small to explore - Alfre Woodard and Blair Underwood stop by briefly. An erotic bit of performance art disrupts the film's middle act, shot and edited like a leftover scene from Showtime After Dark. Hamri finally reveals her distrust in the audience when she clubs us over the head with forced romantic symbolism. While hiking through the woods, Brian and Kenya actually pass through a dark tunnel and emerge on the other side of a well-lit mountain where a sudden burst of rain washes away her hesitations and prejudices. Subtle, much?

Now that's new: Starbucks!

Cast & Crew

Director : Sanaa Hamri

Producer : Preston L. Holmes, ,


Comments

MovieFan06's picture

MovieFan06

After really enjoying "Something New" in theaters, I bought the DVD this past Friday, and I have not been able to stop watching it since! Sanaa is just such a poised, versatile, and talented actress. She's got major pedigree as an actress (Masters in Drama from Yale, Tony award nomination), and it shows. I've been a fan of her work since "The Wood" (and, of course, the absolutely fantastic "Love & Basketball.") She's able to slip in and out of a variety of different roles with such ease, that you always totally believe every character she plays. (Think the ultra-prissy "Kenya" in SN vs. tomboy "Monica" in L&B). In spite of Sanaa's immense talent, the movie industry has largely slept on her. Hopefully, Hollywood will finally wake up and take notice with "Something New." The chemistry between Sanaa and Simon Baker is incredible, and makes for a subtle, sexy vibe througout the entire movie. Like Sanaa, Simon is an extremely talented (but relatively low-key) actor in his own right, and astutely plays the character of Brian without making him either a plain-vanilla "nice guy" or a shallow hunk. The rest of the skilled cast (including the inimitable Alfre Woodard) round out this altogether great movie about life, love, and stepping outside "the box." A+

8 years 1 month ago
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jollygirl's picture

jollygirl

I liked Something New, despite what the critics say. It was a regular, easy to watch, easy to understand dialogue. There were funny parts of it, as well as meaningful parts. Have to admit Simon Baker is easy to look at! It had a happy ending. And that's something you don't see very often. I think Hollywood is forgetting that people go to the movies to escape, not to be thrown into reality full force. There's enough stress in our lives without having to view it on a screen.

8 years 4 months ago
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mari's picture

mari

I thought the movie was great and I wish that and women of color should use their option most definitely. 85% black men have always thought of only him self and they never really cared about this black power thing. The only thing 85% percentage can do is be criminals, teach younger men to be the best homosexuals; and run as fast as you can to whiten thier blood line and blame the black women for it. The black man has to blame someone. Because its his nature. He is the only man who can not sit in a board room with an wife that looks like him then he see that he does not get respect as a man because he does not like him self and is very uncomfortable with himself. The black man blames the white man next he will be blaming the UFO. Because he is so scare of himself. The he wonders why the white man does not respect him. The black man shows many weakness its hard to respect him as a women. Ms. Kriss Turner would do more movies on women of color. I would like for her to do movies beautiful black love. We have to let our women know that there is nothing wrong with them and support brothers who support them and to utilize all options when it comes to love. Stop listening to that black power thing from those other men because they mean you know good. Much respect for the Muslim black brother and other black men before and have good who meant us sister much good. There is perfectly nothing wrong with the black women it just the black man is afraid of himself. And black women need to here it more. We are successful and beautiful and loving and we need to remind ourself and support each other. much love

8 years 3 months ago
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Something New Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2006

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